MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Last month, Lib Dem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon revealed shocking figures regarding unclaimed Oyster refunds. A whopping £53 million currently lies dormant in the system – waiting to be reclaimed.
TfL are not very good at letting people know about this. But, like Caroline, I think TfL service users should easily be able to reclaim money owed to them.
You can read the full story on Lib Dem Voice here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/caroline-pidgeon-reveals-53-million-unclaimed-refunds-on-oyster-cards-34128.html
If you have an old or unused Oyster card lying around, you should be able to claim the money back at ticket offices across the Capital.
There have, however, been problems with getting refunds at ticket offices. Transport for London have now given a phone number for people to call if they are having problems getting a refund. It is 0343 222 1234.
Last week, the Labour leader of Haringey Council, Claire Kober, took to the local newspapers to complain about the shortage of housing for Council tenants.
She has a point. Here in Haringey there are well over 10,000 individuals and families on the waiting list for a council property – and most will have to wait for years before they are even considered. This poses a terrible problem for vulnerable individuals and overcrowded families, who are in desperate need of social housing.
It is all well and good to sit and complain about this – what we really need from our Council leader is action. The blunt fact of the matter is that Labour-run Haringey Council hasn’t built any new Council homes for almost 25 years!
Yes, that’s right. In 1989 the Council built six new flats – and nothing thereafter. It is no wonder that 10,000 individuals and families are now languishing on the waiting list.
And it’s not like the funding hasn’t been available. The Government have rewritten rules to allow Councils to build more homes, and borrow the money to do so. Leicester Council, for instance, were awarded £7 million in Government funding for new housing. They will now build 146 new homes.
In February, the Leader of the Lib Dems put down an amendment to the budget and suggested Haringey did the same as Leicester. The ruling Labour group – led by Claire Kober – rejected this amendment, turning down the opportunity to build more houses.
The Council also have a terrible record on bringing empty homes back into use. Late last year I exposed figures revealing that over 1,700 homes were left empty in Haringey, while the Labour group again spurned a Government grant, which was offered to Councils to help do up empty homes.
So there you have it. The Haringey Labour leader is perfectly happy to complain about the lack of housing, but won’t take action to make a difference – even when the funds are available.
Unfortunately, this is what we have come to expect from the Labour-run Council – all talk and no action. Haringey residents – particularly all those vulnerable and overcrowded people on the waiting list – deserve better.
I posted yesterday on having to beware of the amendment on opposite sex Civil Partnerships – because the proposers are no friends of Equal Marriage – which makes me uber suspicious.
However, I have always wanted both same sex marriage and opposite sex civil partnerships.
So my task this morning is to try and get some facts. The Conservatives are not champions of ‘living together’ – they believe in marriage – and that has been their rationale for their support on same sex marriage. I am concerned as to whether there is any truth in their assertion that this will delay same sex marriage implementation.
That is the key fact to understand – what would be the actual harm (if any) that this amendment could cause?
Often when I am giving a speech or attending an event, a young man or woman will sidle up to me and thank me shyly for having got equal marriage legislation put before Parliament, telling me just how much it means to him or her. The stories of how much it matters to them, their loved ones and their families often makes me cry.
The symbolism of marriage for them is so important – and changing the rules to let people of the same gender who love each other get married is also an important way of showing that as a society we wish to treat people equally, regardless of their sexuality.
That is why this is so important. Equal marriage is totemic in its meaning and in its reality. It’s no wonder that the polls this weekend show people backing same-sex marriage by nearly 2-to-1.
With the legislation coming back to Parliament this coming week, I’ve been reading through some of the many amendments which will be debated. Many of them are fundamentally from those who disagree with same sex marriage and I trust and hope they will fail.
However, there are two that I would normally not hesitate to support. I am in favour of humanist weddings and opposite-sex Civil Partnerships. However, in the case of the opposite sex Civil Partnership proposals it’s a matter of beware opponents bearing gifts – for the people pushing this change are not those with records of supporting equality and marriage rules that accommodate a diversity of couples.
No, instead the proposals are coming from the likes of Tim Loughton and others who are avowed and determined opponents of equal marriage.
Have Tim and his colleagues suddenly become converts to the cause of equality? Given their public statements I fear what is at work here is rather darker and more cynical – a deliberate attempt to wreck the legislation by introducing extra issues to it that will make it easier for opponents of equal marriage in Parliament to then filibuster, delay and block the legislation.
I have just got back from a ministerial trip Nigeria and so will find out more tomorrow. If this is simply a cynical trap by opponents of equal marriage to block it, then we need to be careful not to fall into it – no matter how temptingly attractive the amendments are that are being used to lay the trap.
I’m currently in Nigeria on an international ministerial visit. Below is a blog post about the Women I have met here.
Throughout my trip in Nigeria so far, I have met several inspiring women leaders. But they have beaten the odds. It is a disadvantage to be a woman in Nigeria.
I met with around 15 state government commissioners during my time in Kano in Northern Nigeria. All were men. Nationally, only 4% of local commissioners are women.
In a classroom of 50 girls learning the basics of writing, I was told that 80% of women cannot read in eight northern states.
One of DFIDs partners joined me for dinner on Tuesday. Funded by DFID, her organisation is training 7,000 health-workers and midwives in Northern states. Nigeria has 2% of the worlds population but 10% of global maternal deaths.
And one in three of all girls and women between 15-24 has been a victim of violence at some time
It is this final group, Nigerian adolescent women and girls, who are the focus of the DFID project I launched yesterday, the £38m Voices for Change (V4C) programme. Over five years it will support 120,000 girls improve their skills and confidence in Safe Spaces. And importantly, it will work with 12,000 men and boys, 4,000 traditional and religious leaders and their communities to begin to shift attitudes and behaviours to support these girls.
This is important because women’s disadvantage in Nigeria is a problem for all it’s citizens. Economic growth, and any poverty reduction, will never achieve its full potential unless Nigeria’s women help drive the county forward. Nigeria’s women, and the female leaders I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, will lead. I hope that through V4C and our other programmes, DFID can stand beside them.
The Sunday before last I had the great pleasure of going to Hillfield Park’s May Day street party! It was an action and fun packed day – featuring a tug of war, hulahoopathon and maypole dancing!
I was there to present the prizes for the best pet competition. The runners up included dogs and a hamster (who sat on the rosette to pose for the photo!) I had to present the winning rosette to the pet owner – as the winning cat, Boris, had disappeared!
It was great to see the community come together and I can’t give enough praise the residents who organise the event. This year, there is another added bonus – video footage!
With my Independent Shops Competition Finale fast approaching, I’m looking for local bands and musicians to provide live unplugged entertainment on the day. It’s taking place on 29th June in Crouch End, between 11am and 3pm in the Hornsey Town Hall Square.
Please get in touch via email@example.com if you or your band would be interested in performing. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Here’s a blog post from Nigeria. Yesterday, I was in Kano, launching a a two year teacher support programme alongside a significant contribution from the Kano state government, which will reach all 5,335 public primary schools in the state.
School means different things to different people.
For Adamu, it means his family sending him from their rural village to live and learn in a small room in the Fagge area of Kano in Northern Nigeria.
His family want him to receive a traditional Koranic education. Previously, this would mean a syllabus focused on rote learning of the Koran. Far from his family, without numeracy or literacy skills, Adamu may not have had access to important opportunities to fufil his potential.
For Fatima, school means a class of 50 in a school teaching 13,000 children. Fatima is in the morning shift when I arrive at Gobirawa special state primary school. Surveys in 2010 suggested as many as around 80% of Nigerian state teachers would struggle to pass the country’s tests set for 10 year olds.
But DFID programmes have made a difference here. Our ESSPIN programme has trained teacher trainers, mentored head teachers on school management, and helped write lesson plans. Today I launched a two year teacher support programme alongside a significant contribution from the Kano state government, which will reach all 5,335 public primary schools in the state.
Meanwhile, working with religious leaders and the state government, ESSPIN training and mentoring has meant Koranic schools can (and do) access the state primary curriculum. Standing next to the chief mallam in Fagge as he smiles, watching his three young children learn multiplication, I’m told that the school hopes to send its first pupils to state secondary school later this year.
That the government is focused on education, and recognises the work that must be done, is heartening. Because school can ultimately mean opportunity. And Nigeria has that in abundance. Education is one way in which Nigeria’s stunning economic growth can be shared by all of its citizens. And DFID will stand by Nigeria to achieve its ambitions in schooling it’s children.
Wood Green’s Banksy has dominated the news again this week. The Standard, ITV, BBC and Sky all reported that the piece will go on sale at the Film Museum in Covent Garden on the 2nd June.
This was in response to the announcement on the Sincura Group website – which invites its members to: “view, and even purchase, some of the most important artwork in the modern era including the infamous Slave Labour piece.”
However, Sincura have now released a statement saying that the piece is NOT up for auction. They say that: “The showing of this piece was the culmination of months of hard work and we simply wish to display it in again its home city before it disappears forever…”
They go on to say that the piece will be returned to the US where it will form part of a private collection. This is totally unacceptable – the piece belongs to the public in Wood Green, not in one person’s warehouse.
Journalists, local residents and politicians have been trying to track down the piece since it mysteriously disappeared from the side of the Poundland building in Wood Green. The well-travelled piece ended up in Miami for auction, but was dramatically pulled from sale at the last minute; after the people of Wood Green let the auctioneers know what they thought about their Banksy being sold for private profit.
I held a meeting with the owners of the building – Wood Green Investments – who were adamant that the piece had been taken without their consent.
But – Sincura say they are entirely satisfied that the mural was legally salvaged. Something just doesn’t add up here, and the Banksy mystery is now more confusing than ever.
I have now contacted Sincura and asked them for answers. Is our Banksy up for sale or just being exhibited? How can they be sure that there was no criminality, when the owners didn’t give consent?
Attempts will also be made to contact the ‘owner’ of the piece and/or their representatives.
I will be sure to keep everyone updated on the mission to restore our Banksy to its rightful place – here in Wood Green.
What fantastic news to wake up to – Alexandra Palace has been awarded an £800k grant to get its restoration plans off the ground! This will be followed by a whopping £16.8million for construction work, once the plans have been finalised.
The team at Ally Pally want to transform the eastern wing, by bringing the Victorian theatre and BBC studios back to life and making it accessible to the public.
The local Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for 15 years for proper plans to revamp the Palace and Park. It hasn’t been an easy ride – as the Labour-run Council bungled decision after decision, trying to sell off the landmark and costing the taxpayers millions in the process. But finally, the Palace is now moving in the right direction.
Duncan Wilson, the Chief Executive of Alexandra Park and Palace has said that: “The ‘People’s Palace’ in its entirety can now become a reality and we are thrilled that the HLF have endorsed our plans for its future.”
I am so happy, and couldn’t agree more!
Here is the quote I sent to the press first thing this morning -
“Congratulations to the team at Alexandra Palace, who have successfully secured millions in funding for the historic site.
“From the start, the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund was well researched and involved local people. The proposals for the theatre and TV Studios attracted particularly strong support in the public consultation – so it’s great to see them at the centre of the restoration plans.
“After years of turmoil, the Palace is now well and truly on the right track and has taken a great step towards securing a long term future. Thank you to the Alexandra Palace team, and to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I can’t wait to see the results.”
Ps – I recently described Alexandra Palace as my favourite landmark, and made a recording as part of the ‘London Beyond Sight’ project. You can listen to it here.